What is a bulging disc?
Spinal discs act as shock absorbers cushioning the vertebrae of the spine. The aging process and everyday wear and tear on the spine can cause the tough outer layer of the discs to become brittle, weakened and more susceptible to being compressed and bulging. When the tough outer layer of a disc is compromised the disc can bulge out of the normal space that it occupies and into the spinal canal. Once a disc bulges into the spinal canal it can put excess pressure on surrounding nerve roots causing symptoms such as radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.
What are the differences between a mild bulging disc and a more severe bulging disc?
A mild bulging disc is a bulging disc that does not restrict or interfere with your daily work activities and daily recreational or leisure activities. A more severe bulging disc can make it difficult to perform the most basic activities of daily life such as getting dressed, driving or sitting in a chair.
What are the treatment options for a mild bulging disc?
Mild bulging disc treatment is typically comprised of a combination of conservative treatment options such as:
- Heat and ice therapy
- Exercise and stretching
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Physical therapy
Your physician may also recommend certain lifestyle modifications to help treat your mild bulging disc. Recommendations might include stopping smoking, losing excess weight, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding contact sports and avoiding high-impact activities. The goal of conservative treatment is to control painful symptoms so your body has time to heal. The bulging disc will naturally regain a healthier shape and work back to the space that it normally occupies between the vertebrae.
If symptoms progress or do not respond to conservative treatment, your physician may recommend steroid injections. If symptoms persist after steroid injections and have begun to interfere with your everyday life, as a last resort, you may be referred to surgeon to discuss surgical treatment options.